Remarks Commemorating 100 Years of Albanian Independence
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
November 1, 2012
I am delighted to be here and to have this opportunity to speak before this parliament of a free, independent, sovereign, democratic Albania. (Applause.) Mr. President, Madam Speaker, Mr. Prime Minister, members of parliament, the honor is especially great because I am joining you in celebrating your jubilee – 100 years of independence. That was a hard-fought victory. As I walked with – I love saying Madam Speaker – with Speaker Topalli through the halls, I saw the photographs of your predecessors. So much has happened over the last 100 years, but one thing has been constant: The United States of America has been your friend and your partner, and we are very proud of that. (Applause.)
Our ties have only strengthened and multiplied. And it is not only between our governments, it is between our people. The American and Albanian people share the capacity to demonstrate resilience and resolve. You, like us, have been determined to be free, to build a thriving democracy and a flourishing economy. You, like us, hold a fierce desire to put past struggles behind you and achieve a future of peace and opportunity for all.
I am very grateful for this partnership and our historic friendship, just as I am grateful for the contributions that thousands of Albanians have made to my own country. You know so well that Albanian Americans serve in our government and our armed forces. They are entrepreneurs and teachers, engineers and artists, religious leaders, and they run some of the best restaurants in the world. (Applause.)
Albanian culture is a rich component of American life. I came to know that well as a senator from New York for eight years. And Mr. President, I was deeply honored to receive earlier today the Order of the National Flag. I will forever cherish that. (Applause.) It was yet another symbol of the strong friendship between us.
A hundred years ago this month, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson defended Albania’s independence and stopped your country from being partitioned in the aftermath of World War I. Through the decades that followed, American leaders, Democrats and Republicans alike, repeatedly stepped forward to support your rights and your freedoms, not only here in Albania but throughout the region.
I appreciated greatly the kind words of the Speaker about the role that the United States played in quickly reestablishing relations with Albania in 1991 under President George H.W. Bush. And, of course, I was very honored and delighted to once again hear what my husband had done, establishing an enterprise fund. (Applause.) As President, President Clinton did establish an enterprise fund to bring U.S. investment back to Albania, supported democratic elections here, and worked with Albania and our NATO allies to protect Kosovo and restore stability to the region. And then five years ago, President George Bush became the first sitting president to visit Albania. (Applause.) And in 2009, President Obama was proud to welcome you, along with Croatia, as our newest members in NATO.
I am here today at this milestone in your nation’s history with a message for all the people of Albania. The United States stood with you for your first 100 years of independence, and we will stand with you for the next 100, and the 100 after that, and the 100 after that. (Applause.)
As I was sitting in the chair behind me, looking out at all of you and seeing your faces and thinking about your parents and your grandparents and your great-grandparents and all they endured – invasions, occupation, communist dictatorship, severe depravation – it’s hard to believe today that not long ago, Albania was the most isolated country in Europe. You had none of what you have today: political and social freedoms, self-determination, and opportunity. So many Albanians had to leave the families and places they loved to seek those elsewhere.
But you have so much to celebrate now. This jubilee is not just about the past. It is a challenge to what you will become in the future.
Twenty years ago, you were just emerging from the yoke of communism; now, the elected representatives of the people engage in debates and vote openly on the laws of the land, activities that were once impossible.
Back then, your economy was closed, and you have worked hard to open it, to create the conditions for entrepreneurship, trade, and investment, laying the foundation for even better economic opportunity ahead.
Back then, Albania was the land of hundreds of thousands of concrete bunkers, evidence of the mistrust that the communist leaders felt not only toward other nations, but toward their own people. Now you are a valued member of NATO, a valued participant in the International Security Force in Afghanistan, and I express my condolences for the first loss of an Albanian soldier there. And you are moving toward full integration into Europe as you seek accession to the European Union.
This is all grounds for celebration. But I think we all know that Americans and Albanians can never be satisfied. We have to ask ourselves, what more can we do? How much better can we make life for those whom we serve? You cannot stop now. You have the potential to become a model, not just for this region, not just for Europe, but for the world. (Applause.)
And the United States has a great stake in your success. We not only want to see our relationship grow even stronger, we want to see you grow even stronger. (Applause.) We want to see your economy, your democracy be the envy of people everywhere. We fully endorse Albania’s EU aspirations because we think that will make you stronger. It will also be good for Europe, and although we don’t have a vote on that particular membership application, we will tell all who will listen how strongly we support you. (Applause.)
Albania and the Albanian people deserve a place in the European family of nations. That is not only good for you, it will make this continent more peaceful and secure. But in order for that to happen, the next months pose critical decisions for you here in this hall, for your government, and for your people. As a friend and admirer of Albania, there are a few challenges in particular I hope you will meet. They are vital to your long-term progress.
First, please work to ensure that your upcoming elections are free and fair and seen as such by the entire world. That is first and foremost so that the people of Albania can have faith in the results and trust in you as their leaders. It’s also an important signal to the EU that Albania’s politics can function smoothly and without strife. I know many of you are focused on this issue and are taking steps now to put a clear and effective process into place, and I commend you for that.
As someone who has been in politics, and run in very contested elections, and have won some and lost others, I know how hard politics in the modern world can be. (Applause.) And I can also attest to how elections draw the world’s attention, because with Twitter and Facebook and instantaneous communications, you have to assume everything will be known, will be seen, which is good for democracy, but it puts an extra burden on those of us who are leaders. So I urge not only leaders of Albania, but the people, the citizens of Albania, to work hard to make this next election a success that reflects the depth of your commitment to democracy.
At the same time, it’s always important to remind ourselves that consolidating democracy requires more than elections. It requires the rule of law. It requires strong institutions, including an effective and impartial judiciary. It requires openness in government so citizens can hold us, hold leaders, accountable. Attributes like these ensure that democracy delivers concrete results to the people. And when those are subverted, there needs to be accountability.
Secondly, I urge you to tackle the problem that afflicts so many democracies in the world today, namely, corruption. This is a fight every country must wage and win, because all over the world, corruption is a cancer that eats away at societies. It drains resources, it blocks economic growth, it shields incompetent and unethical leaders, and perhaps worst of all, it creates a culture of impunity that saps people of their will to improve their own lives and communities.
There’s no easy to answer to this. It’s as old as human nature. I’m sure if there were an easy answer, the world would have solved this a long time ago. Rooting out corruption demands constant effort and a shared commitment. No matter your party, no matter your differences, I urge all of Albania’s leaders to summon the political will to work together, to confront this threat to your independence.
And that points to the final challenge that I want to raise with you, one that is relevant to everything else I’ve mentioned. For Albania’s democracy to thrive, Albania’s leaders will need to build a culture of cooperation that transcends political differences, what Alexis de Tocqueville, the great historian of America’s early years, termed the habits of the heart. They’re at the core of every successful democracy.
Now, this is a challenge some countries are never able to meet, but I believe Albania can. Now, again, I have personal experience with this. As a Democratic senator, I frequently worked with Republicans across the aisle to solve problems, to deal with issues that affected my state and my country. And you may have noticed that I now serve as Secretary of State for President Obama, my former rival.
People around the world still ask me how can President Obama and I work together every day as partners when we fought so hard against each other. Believe me, I did everything I could to beat him. (Applause.) But he won, and then he asked me to be his Secretary of State. And so when I’m asked how, how can two people who said terrible things about each other, spent tens of millions of dollars advertising against each other, whose supporters were arguing everywhere – (applause) – against each other, how can you two work together? I will tell you it’s a very, very simple answer. We both love our country. (Applause.) And I know there is not an Albanian here who doesn’t love Albania.
So I hope that you, too, can find your way to sincere, sustained cooperation. Hold different political beliefs, believe that you would be a better leader than the other person. That’s what politics is about. You wouldn’t be doing it if you didn’t believe that about yourself. But at the end, putting individual interests and party interests behind national interests is what democratic leaders are called to do. (Applause.)
Although the Albanian people can trace your history back thousands of years, this upcoming period may be one of the most consequential you have faced, as to how you consolidate forever the gift of democracy for future generations. And there are questions that you, and only you, have to ask and answer: Will Albania continue to put into place the building blocks of good governance? Will the leaders continue to earn the people’s trust and ensure that government delivers results? Will you put aside personal and party politics for the good of the country? Will you make reforms that support economic growth by creating opportunities for all Albanians? Will you fight corruption that advantages the few at the expense of the many? Will you continue to do the hard work required to join the European Union, recognizing that it offers a path of lasting peace and progress for your citizens? Will you continue to serve as a model for the region and the world? The religious tolerance present here in Albania is a precious gift. It is hard to find in many places in this region and elsewhere. Cherish it. Use it as another argument in favor of the uniqueness of this great country. (Applause.)
These are tough questions to answer. I don’t come with the answers. I come with the questions. But I also come with a deep sense of confidence in you. (Applause.) And let me say, as you make the tough decisions that are required for your further progress for moving, as you rightly belong, into the European Union, the United States will support you in these difficult decisions. (Applause.) We believe that we’re in this together, the United States and Albania.
We know what kind of world we want for our children and future generations. It is a world of opportunity and tolerance and inclusivity. It is a world of human rights that cover everyone, that give every person the chance to fulfill his or her God-given potential. And as leaders of democracies in the 21st century, it is our solemn obligation to deliver these results for the people who put their faith in us.
I look out at you and I see the future. I believe you will face the challenges and seize the opportunities of the century ahead. And I, for one, will be cheering you on and telling everyone who will listen if you want to see true democracy in action, go to Albania.
Congratulations, and God bless you and God bless Albania. (Applause.)
Remarks With Croatian President Ivo Josipovic After Their Meeting
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
October 31, 2012
The video below is available with closed captioning on YouTube.
MODERATOR: (In Croatian.) PRESIDENT JOSIPOVIC: (Via interpreter) (In progress) – profile itself as a democratic (inaudible). We are today a member of NATO, soon to be a member of the EU, and this shows that the support from the American side has been very meaningful. We’ve discussed our bilateral relations that are excellent, however there is a great potential for enhancing our economic cooperation. I’m very pleased that from you, Secretary of State, I’ve heard major interest of the American side in cooperation in the economy. There is, of course, a problem of the actual openness to investment, but we are aware that the Croatian Government is preparing a number of measures to facilitate investments in Croatia, and I am sure that there will be a major number of American investors who will come and invest in Croatia.
We have discussed our cooperation within NATO, which is a very important framework for our partnership, and Mrs. Clinton has shown great interest in the Croatian assessment of the situation in the region and the possibility of Croatia as a neighboring country and soon to become a member of the EU contributing to further stabilization of the European future of the entire region. I reiterated our view that a continued enlargement process is Croatia’s vital interest and that also within the EU we should do everything for our neighbors to get support and to be tomorrow together with us in the EU. I thank the U.S. Secretary and her delegation for extremely open and constructive talk.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Mr. President, and it indeed is an honor for me to be here on my first official visit to Zagreb as Secretary of State and to celebrate the exemplary partnership between our two countries, which, as you say, dates back now 20 years. Earlier today I also had the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister, and in both meetings we discussed a range of critical issues where our countries work side-by-side to advance peace and prosperity throughout the region. The United States is very proud to have the opportunity to work with Croatia in NATO, and we are looking forward to Croatia’s joining the European Union next year.
For more than 20 years the United States has stood with the people of Croatia to overcome the wars and destruction of the 1990s and to rebuild your country. But this is really the work of all of the people in this country, because you made a fundamental decision early on. You decided you wanted to join the transatlantic institutions and be part of Europe, a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. So yes, today you are not only a full member of NATO and you will be joining the European Union, but you serve as an anchor of stability and prosperity in the region and demonstrate unequivocally what people and political leaders can accomplish when they work together toward a shared goal.
Nations around the world today are making the difficult transition to democracy, and they can look to you, they can look to Croatia, as a model. This country has taken great strides to combat corruption and uphold the rule of law, from prosecuting domestic war crimes cases to reforming your justice sector. Croatia has also made it a priority to include ethnic minorities and ensure opportunities for all of your citizens. And I would like to commend the Croatian Government, Mr. President, for leading the decade of Roma inclusion this year. Whenever Roma people cannot fully participate in their communities, whether that’s getting an equal education, electing political representatives, or having the same opportunities to contribute to the economic and political lives of their countries, whole societies lose out. Because when more people in more places can contribute their talents, that adds immeasurably to what everyone is able to do. So thank you for taking on one of Europe’s most persistent challenges.
I also want to commend Croatia’s efforts to establish a regional housing program with Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. This is a significant step toward reconciliation with honor, and the United States is proud to contribute to your efforts. More importantly, tens of thousands of refugees who are still displaced by wars can now look forward to a better future.
Of course, there is still work to do to close the chapter on refugees and other important challenges, and we strongly support efforts here in this region and in particular Croatia’s to combat corruption and organized crime, strengthen the independence of your judiciary, and privatize state enterprises in order to open up the economy. We encourage Croatia to share your experience with your neighbors, as you have a lot of lessons that can be useful to them.
Now, as the President said, to continue building a thriving, modern democracy, you need to have your economy keep growing. So we are strongly in support of any ways to improve your business environment and attract more investors, particularly investors from the United States. You have proven time and time again you have the political will and persistence to make tough choices that deliver concrete results.
I also wish to thank you, Mr. President, and through you the people of Croatia, for the contributions you have made to NATO, UN and EU peacekeeping missions around the world. In Afghanistan, more than 300 Croatian troops serve alongside Americans and others as part of the International Security Assistance Force. And I appreciate greatly the sacrifices Croatia has made and your commitment to see the security transition through with ISAF to give the Afghan people a chance to build their own institutions and secure their own country.
Now, I brought with me quite a delegation, Mr. President. I was pleased that our new Ambassador, Ken Merten, was able to get here in time for my arrival. He’s been on the job about five days. And I was particularly pleased to bring with me the highest-ranking Croatian American in the United States Government, Capricia Penavic Marshall, who is our Chief of Protocol, who has been a longtime friend and associate of mine and whose father, Frank, has regaled me with many stories about growing up in Croatia.
So it’s not only a partnership. It’s not only that we are members of NATO together. It’s not only that our soldiers serve side-by-side. It is also the bonds of friendship and family and real cultural affinity that Americans and Croatians share. And Mr. President, we look forward to celebrating Croatia’s accession to the EU in the very near future.
Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Now we’ll take questions. (Inaudible), a question to the President and the State Secretary.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) A question to the President and State Secretary: When on the first of July next year when the Croats wake up, in spite of the objections of the Slovenians, do you expect us to be a member of the EU with a special assignment in the region?
And the second question, based on – for the U.S. Secretary: Your former ambassador, when leaving Croatia, said that there is an anti-business climate in Croatia and that the U.S. has the lowest investment in Croatia compared to other (inaudible). Does the Obama Administration see any progress over the last period of years, or is this country still in an anti-business climate? Does it pervade here?
PRESIDENT JOSIPOVIC: (Via interpreter) I am quite sure that on the first of July, we will wake up in the EU next year. And I am sure that Croatia will be a successful member of the EU, which means not to benefit honey and milk, but we will have to show what we can do. It’s a major opportunity for us, but it’s up to us to show how we will take advantage of it.
We will have an important task in the region in our own interest. Croatia’s best interest is that our neighbors also accede to the EU, of course, provided that they fulfill the EU requirements. This is important to us for the sake of peace, security, but also for the economic considerations, free movement of goods, people, among the neighboring countries and friends.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, certainly in my discussions with both the President and the Prime Minister, they expressed equally the same confidence that you will be a member of the European Union. And we certainly strongly support that, as we have over the last several years.
Regarding the economic, commercial, business, and investment climate, I think it’s important in today’s world that everyone look for ways to create jobs, restore competitiveness, and spur renewed economic growth. That is particularly important here in Croatia because you have an educated workforce, you have a developed infrastructure, you have a very favorable geographic position, you are a promising destination for investment. But you also have a very high rate of unemployment for young people that could be addressed by opening up your business sector to greater competition.
We see potential for increasing trade and investment between Croatia and the United States. And as I discussed with the Prime Minister and the President, we urge Croatia to make necessary reforms: to increase transparency, to reduce bureaucratic hurdles wherever you can, to continue with privatization in an appropriate fashion, to make it easy to start a new business, to encourage young people to be entrepreneurs, to look for energy independence, which will give you advantages vis-a-vis the rest of Europe because of your long coastline, to explore liquefied natural gas and deepening your port.
We stand ready to assist in any way. We already have several business development programs in place. Last year, we brought people together from the United States and across the region for an annual business and investment conference known as the Brown Forum, named in honor of the late former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. So we stand ready to encourage American investment in Croatia. And I must say we think that there’s a great potential here, but there do have to be continuing economic reforms which, if undertaken and implemented, will give Croatia a significant advantage vis-a-vis the rest of Europe, particularly southern Europe and especially the Balkans.
So we don’t urge you to do this for us, we urge this to do it for you, but we think it will also benefit American businesses and investors because they will find Croatia a very attractive place to do business with all of the assets you have.
QUESTION: Secretary, if I could ask you about Syria. Mr. Brahimi’s attempt at a ceasefire has evidently failed, and the violence is increasing again. What are your views on what needs to be done now to bring the violence down?
And turning to next week’s opposition conference in Doha, what gives you confidence, if you have any at all, that this could produce the beginnings of a government in waiting where the SNC has failed to do that? And are you sure that your key allies, including Turkey, are ready to swing behind whatever is the outcome of Doha? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well Andy, those are all very important and timely questions. And I want to start by thanking Croatia for their assistance in dealing with the extremely difficult problems presented by both Syria and Iran.
Look, I sincerely regret, but I, unfortunately, was not surprised by the failure of the latest ceasefire attempt. Despite its reported commitment to the UN Special Envoy, Mr. Brahimi, the Assad regime did not suspend its use of advanced weaponry against the Syrian people for even one day. And the shelling in the suburbs of Damascus was as bad last weekend as at any time in the conflict.
So while we urge Special Envoy Brahimi to do whatever he can in Moscow and Beijing to convince them to change course and support stronger UN action, we cannot and will not wait for that. Instead, our efforts, and those of our partners in the EU and the Arab League, are focused on pressuring the regime through increasing and tightening sanctions, meeting the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people who are displaced, assisting those countries that they seek refuge in, and helping the opposition unite behind a shared, effective strategy that can resist the regime’s violence and begin to provide for a political transition that can demonstrate more clearly than has been possible up until now what the future holds for the Syrian people once the Assad regime is gone.
So we are working very hard with many different elements from the opposition – yes, inside Syria as well as outside Syria. Some of you might remember I hosted a meeting in New York during the UN General Assembly. We facilitated the smuggling-out of a few representatives of the Syrian internal opposition in order for them to explain to the countries gathered why they must be at the table. This cannot be an opposition represented by people who have many good attributes but have, in many instances, not been inside Syria for 20, 30, or 40 years. There has to be a representation of those who are on the frontlines, fighting and dying today to obtain their freedom.
And there needs to be an opposition leadership structure that is dedicated to representing and protecting all Syrians. It is not a secret that many inside Syria are worried about what comes next. They have no love lost for the Assad regime, but they worry, rightly so, about the future. And so there needs to be an opposition that can speak to every segment and every geographic part of Syria. And we also need an opposition that will be on record strongly resisting the efforts by extremists to hijack the Syrian revolution. There are disturbing reports of extremists going into Syria and attempting to take over what has been a legitimate revolution against a repressive regime for their own purposes.
So the Arab League-sponsored meetings, starting in Doha next week, will be an important next step. I have been constantly involved with my counterparts, both in the EU and in the Arab League, in particular with the hosts of the meeting next week in Qatar. We have recommended names and organizations that we believe should be included in any leadership structure. We’ve made it clear that the SNC can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition. They can be part of a larger opposition, but that opposition must include people from inside Syria and others who have a legitimate voice that needs to be heard. So our efforts are very focused on that right now. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) This completes the statements for the press. Thank you.
Remarks With Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
October 31, 2012
The video below is available with closed captioning on YouTube.
PRIME MINISTER THACI: (Via interpreter) Honorable Secretary Clinton, allow me to express my condolences and those of the Kosovar people for the consequences of the hurricane. We pray for them, and we are visit the U.S. – will soon (inaudible) after this hurricane. Honorable Lady Ashton, Secretary Clinton, 13 years ago, Kosovo was a country that was totally devastated with over a million of its citizens driven away from their homes and thousands of people missing, many unspoken. Thirteen years ago, Honorable Secretary Clinton, you visited my citizens in refugee camps here. Those pictures are unforgettable. Today, you visit them in their own state in the independent and sovereign Kosovo. Kosovo and its citizens will be eternally grateful to the United States of America and the countries of the European Union for the powerful support that they gave to Kosovo on its long journey to freedom and independence.
Despite the significant progress we have made in – together in these 13 years of freedom and the four and a half years of independence, today Kosovo is still not the Kosovo of our dreams. We are persistently working for a European Kosovo, for a Euro-Atlantic Kosovo. We are conscious that we need to do more. There’s a lot of work to do in the rule of law, combating corruption and organized crime. Much work is still expected from us increasing the welfare of our citizens, and (inaudible) including minority communities in the public and institutional (inaudible).
Although extraordinary success has been made in integrating Serbian citizens in the south of the country, still a challenge remains in the north. I am a Prime Minister, Prime Minister of all citizens, both the citizens in the north and in south. And I guarantee (inaudible) to all. We will work extensively in attractive development projects for our citizens in that part of the country as well. We will continue to extend our hand of cooperation and provide services to all. But despite our willingness, the presence of illegal structures financed by Serbia makes our work very difficult there.
Honorable media representatives, I assured Baroness Ashton and Secretary Clinton that the institutions of Kosovo will meet all criteria in order that we may implement the will of the citizens of Kosovo and our vision to integrate as soon as possible in the European Union and in NATO. EU integration has no other alternative. Honorable Ashton, I assure you that Kosovo will continually provide positive arguments so that your work in pushing Kosovo’s EU agenda forward will be easier. We elaborated together, together with Secretary Clinton and Baroness Ashton, that the process of normalizing relations between the State of Kosovo and the State of Serbia is a determining factor of the Europeanization of the region. Kosovo is determined in this process. But let us be clear that (inaudible) will not go back; the state of Kosovo is being consolidated and strengthened every day. Kosovo’s independence and its territorial integrity and the (inaudible) state organization are internationally recognized facts and undisputable.
There are, however, many things that are in the interest of both countries and in the interest of the citizens of both states. Dialogue is the only way forward to integrate into the EU, and it is the main determining catalyzer to integrate in this – in the EU. And normalizing relations between Kosovo and Serbia, it goes in the best interests of Kosovo, of Serbia, of the region. It is also in the best interest for powerful investment from the EU and the U.S., and also in the interest of peace and regional stability and also for the Euro-Atlantic perspective.
So citizens in Kosovo, in Serbia, and in the region, after opening this chapter, will have more hope and more confidence in the future – Euro-Atlantic future of Kosovo.
MODERATOR: Now we invite the Honorable Madam Secretary Hillary Clinton for a press statement.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. And Prime Minister, I’m delighted to be back in Pristina. I am also reminded, as you did, of my visit 13 years ago to refugee camps where the people who are now proud citizens of a new, independent state had fled to save their lives. I’m not sure any people has made as much progress in such a short period of time as the Kosovar people. The United States has been with you on every step of your journey, and we will remain as your partner and your friend as you continue forward.
Ever since I visited two years ago, I’ve been looking forward to returning and continuing the conversations that I’ve had over 13 years with the leaders and people of Kosovo about the future that you are building. I’m here today with the High Representative of the European Union, Cathy Ashton, because the United States fully supports the aspirations of the Kosovar people to be integrated into Europe and the Euro-Atlantic Alliance. We believe the dialogue that the Prime Minister has begun with Cathy Ashton and the Prime Minister of Serbia is absolutely essential. It provides the path to long-term stability, prosperity, and peace for people here and throughout the region. So we are working closely with the European Union and High Representative Ashton to advance the political dialogue that has begun.
And I personally want to commend the Prime Minister. Prime Minister Thaci took a political risk – I know a little bit about political risks – in going to this meeting in Brussels. It was the right decision. It was courageous and it was smart. I also want to commend your President. President Jahjaga has represented Kosovo very well around the world. She has changed minds and hearts about Kosovo and about your future.
My message yesterday in Belgrade is the same as my message here today in Pristina. The United States urges all parties to continue to work to implement the agreements reached to date, to reach agreements in new areas, and to advance concrete measures to normalize relations. Normalization of relations is key to future progress for both Serbia and Kosovo. But we believe in the United States that these steps taken by Kosovo are especially important for you. We think that moving toward the European Union will give you the rewards for the hard work, the sacrifice of the people of this generation and the past and future generations to come. So I urge Kosovo’s leaders to continue to carry out negotiations in good faith. Certainly, addressing the concerns of the Kosovo Serbs will be critical. I will meet with a group of ethnic Serb returnees later today, and will convey America’s commitment to helping build a future in Kosovo and throughout the region where all people of all backgrounds have a chance to succeed.
Let me be absolutely clear, not only here in Pristina but to anyone listening or watching throughout the region: The United States is firmly committed to Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to seeing the rule of law extend throughout Kosovo. We oppose any discussion of territorial changes or reopening Kosovo’s independent status. These matters are not up for discussion. The boundaries of an independent, sovereign Kosovo are clear and set. I appreciate the Prime Minister saying that he is the Prime Minister of the north and of the south, and we look forward to assisting the Prime Minister, his government, and the people of Kosovo as they translate that commitment into reality in both the north and the south.
The United States is very proud of our friendship with Kosovo. We see a country that is young not only in terms of years of being a state, but in terms of demography. You have a young population. The young men and women of Kosovo whom I had a chance to meet with two years ago, when I was here, deserve to be fully integrated into Europe. And that is our goal for you. We want to continue working with you to build and strengthen your democratic institutions and advance the economic welfare of your people. I believe in Kosovo’s future, and the United States remains deeply committed to your success.
Now for me and my family, and many of my fellow Americans, this is more than a matter of foreign policy. It is deeply personal. As I was driving in from the airport last evening, I saw that enormous statue of my husband – (laughter) – standing next to the store called Hillary. (Laughter.) I had a chance to visit both of them last time. It looks like the store is doing well, which I was very happy to see. But we have a personal commitment to your success, and we also know that getting into the European Union is not easy. There have to be changes made. And it’s not only changes by the government, but also changes by the people. But we also know Kosovo’s future lies in Europe, and we are anxious to see you move as quickly as possible in that direction.
So we will stand with you as you make key reforms to improve governance that brings you closer to full Euro-Atlantic integration. We will stand with you as you work with Serbia to resolve practical problems and overcome obstacles, and we will be there for you as you take the necessary steps toward the future you so richly deserve.
MODERATOR: Now I would kindly pass the floor for a press statement to Honorable Lady Catherine Ashton.
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE ASHTON: Well, thank you very much. Can I first of all say how delighted I am to be back, and especially delighted to be back with Secretary Clinton, my friend Hillary, who I know has a very special place in the hearts of the people of Kosovo. Prime Minister, it’s always a pleasure to see you and to have the opportunity to continue our work together.
On this particular trip, a common theme has been our view of the importance of seeing the countries we visited being part of the European Union. And to the people of Kosovo, I say the same thing: Your future lies with the European Union, and we are eager to see you realize that ambition. As Secretary Clinton said, the road is not easy. Every country that comes into the European Union will tell you it gets harder before it gets easier. There are many things that need to be done. But they’re worth doing because at the end of it, you will have a country that is stronger economically, stronger politically, where the rule of law is observed correctly, where human rights are fully respected. And though I would also say that all countries need to continue to be vigilant and to continue on the journey that they are to take in these regards, nonetheless you will arrive at the European Union with great strength. And I personally look forward to that day very much.
The dialogue that we have begun is not easy. It’s not easy for the Prime Minister; it’s not easy for the Prime Minister of Serbia, Prime Minister Dacic, either. And I know that for the people of Kosovo, with the history and the fears that you have, it’s not easy, either. But we commit to you that this dialogue is about making lives better. It’s about normalizing life so that the people who live in the north can go about their daily lives feeling part of a community, feeling part in their lives of a society. And it’s about doing so by sitting down and talking, and talking openly and freely.
And I have to say to all of you that I believe your Prime Minister was extremely brave to come to Brussels and to be willing to come into the room and have that conversation. I also believe the Prime Minister of Serbia was brave, too. It was a good meeting. It was a first good meeting. There will be more, and soon. And its purpose will be, as I have said, to make things better. I hope you will give him your full support. I hope the Prime Minister can count on all the politicians and the people to go forward, and in doing so, to know that it’s not just the European Union that will be working hard on this, but that we will be in close contact with our friends, our partners in the United States of America, who play such a vital role in supporting not just Kosovo, but actually the European Union as a whole.
So thank you very much, Prime Minister, for all that you’re doing. Secretary Clinton, as this is our last press conference on this particular trip, what a pleasure it’s been to travel with you and to work so closely with you. And to all of you, I wish this country every possible success.
MODERATOR: Thank you. (Inaudible.)